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Satnews Daily
February 5th, 2018

JAXA Launches the World's Smallest Rocket, Complete with Ultra-SmallSat Payload

The SS-520-No.5 launch from the Uchinoura Space Center on February 3. Photo is courtesy of JAXA.

Staff writer Seija Tanaka of The Asahi Shimbun infosite reports that JAXA, Japan’s space agency, on February 3 successfully launched one of the world’s smallest rockets.

This also marked the first time JAXA has successfully launched a rocket using commercially available electronic parts. The rocket, SS-520 No. 5, 9.5 meters long and weighing 2.6 tons, was constructed at a relatively low cost.

According to JAXA, SS-520 No. 5 lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center at 2:03 p.m.with an ultra-small satellite payload that weighed in at approximately 3 kilograms. About seven and a half minutes into flight, the satellite, developed by the University of Tokyo, successfully separated from the rocket.

The rocket was based on designs that have been used for atmospheric observations and other purposes. JAXA used off-the-shelf parts for the electronic circuits and other components to demonstrate low-cost technologies for launching this ultra-small satellite.

The development and the launch of the SS-520 No. 5 cost about 500 million yen ($4.5 million). The SS-520 No. 4 was JAXA’s first rocket that used commercially available parts. However, the launch in January of 2017 failed as abnormalities occurred in electrical sources, due to vibrations and other factors and, as a result, it became impossible for ground teams to receive signals from the rocket. Because of that failure, JAXA took measures to protect the wiring to prevent vibrations from reaching the electrical circuits.